Definition of substantial earnings


Q. I am having difficulty finding the definition of substantial earnings. My Social Security statement shows “Your Taxed Social Security Earnings.” Is that the same as substantial earnings? If not, how do I find out what my substantial earnings are? I have the chart listing the substantial earnings for each year.

A. “Substantial Earnings” is a term that describes the minimum qualified earnings for a particular past year, for the purpose of computing the Windfall Elimination Provision. To determine whether or not your earnings qualify as “substantial” for a given year, compare “Your Taxed Social Security Earnings” for that year from Page 3 of your Social Security statement with the substantial earnings threshold for that same year from the table on Page 2 of the brochure at For each year that your statement earnings equal or exceed the substantial earnings threshold for that year, you qualify for one year of substantial earnings when computing the WEP.


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Mike Miles is a Certified Financial Planner licensee and principal adviser for Variplan LLC, an independent fiduciary in Vienna, Virginia. Email your financial questions to and view his blog at

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